Why it’s Normal to Talk to Your Dog

Not that I’ve ever doubted that it’s normal, but it was nice to have it confirmed by this article I read today. I’ve spoken to three dogs so far today, on a variety of different topics. I spoke to one in particular more than the others, as we spent a good part of the day together. I variously asked about his logic behind marking his territory as frequently as he did, indicated the dangers inherent in crossing the road, explained to him where I was going when I left and gave him a rough indication of when I’d return, and generally enquired as to his wellbeing. And I still feel pretty normal. This also applies, by the way, to talking to cats and other pets; plants; and inanimate objects.

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Where would the English language be without this simple two-letter word? Without it we wouldn’t be able to refer to an object that isn’t clearly male or female for a second time, without repeating the whole word. Like any pronoun it makes speech and writing simpler and more fluid.

But it also has its little quirks. Like when we say:

It’s raining.

What’s raining?

Just, it, you know? It’s raining!

See also it’s cold, it’s quiet, it’s five o’clock etc.

The meaning of these sentences wouldn’t cause much difficulty for any students, beyond absolute beginners. Yet some people still get confused by them because they expect it to refer to something concrete. This is another classic case of confusion caused by thinking about what grammatical rules would seem to demand, as opposed to looking at the practical use of language. It might not seem to make sense to use it when it doesn’t refer to a clear object, yet, every English sentence needs a subject, and impersonal verb phrases don’t have an agent doing the action, so let’s just stick It at the beginning of the sentence and not think too much about it. Continue reading